03 December 2010

Duke Bistro: Share Plates, Darlinghurst (20 Nov 2010)

Level 1, 63 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010

The art of sharing little dishes

Pulling together British colonial style with an all star food and drinks crew featuring Thomas Lim (ex-Tetsuya's), Mitch Orr (2010 Young Chef) on the pots and pans, with Charles Aidnsbury, Andy Penney and Joel Amos taking care of liquid refreshment. Expect seasonal produce, a left-of-centre approach to gastronomy and most of all good times at this late-night dining experience.

As you enter the side door to the Duke Bistro and walk up the dimly lit stairwell you start to realise the decor is a lot more sophisticated than the downstairs eclectic dive bar yet thankfully you still find highlights of the fun and quirky humour. The decor is cosy and I love how the tea lights are held in the tilted teacup — a good way to light up the dishes when photographing them too. The menu looks very tempting but like Berta you're at a loss to know how a dish will be prepared and cooked because the descriptions are kept very minimal and only the main ingredients are identified. To start with a thirst quencher the Duke Cocktail ($15) is a duo of Orange, Maraschino Liqueur and Bubbles, finished with a Lemon twist and the Champagne Cocktail ($14) has Cognac, Angostura Bitters soaked Sugar cube and Bubbles. Both are served in an old fashioned champagne glass. They're noticeably alcoholic which is a good thing but they're also noticeably small as well — quality not quantity applies I guess.

I wanted to try everything on the menu and our table of 4 nearly did although the servings are fairly small so it can start getting a little pricey to start feeling full. The delightful looking School Prawns Spiced Tea Butter, Croutons ($6 for 2 pieces) are bite sized and too quickly eaten to appreciate. The Octopus, Hops, Chilli, Orange ($8) reminds me of a dish you might find at Universal. The octopus is tender and the dish flavoursome and I wished there was more of it to share. Fried Chicken Wings, Coleslaw Milk, Hot Sauce ($10) gets you 4 petit pieces of tasty chicken although they're not like your more filling mamak variety, but still yummy. The Egg, Seasonal Mushrooms, Almonds ($15) looked a little like a science experiment with the beaker of consommé you self pour. The flavours were good with the interesting mushroom textures. I thought the flavours in the Lamb Belly, Cumin, Eggplant, Pearl Onions ($16) went well together as did the pricier Wagyu, Herb Dressing, Roast Gem Lettuce ($24) which was maybe a little over seasoned with salt but I didn't mind it. The smokey scented roast lettuce was something different and I think complimented the dish nicely.

I enjoyed the Tater Tots, Duke Gravy, Edamame ($15) which were cooked to a crunchy shell perfection but being only bite sized morsels they were inhaled in seconds. I first tried burrata cheese at Kingsleys which was more creamier than the Tomato, Strawberry, Burrata, Shiso ($18) but it was interesting having it with strawberry. The Baby and watermelon radish, cooked in dashi stock and beurre monté ($18) was one of the table favourites mainly because it was served with oven warmed buns to fill us up. We received one bun for each person so I'm not sure how it works — if we had eight people at the table would everyone get a bun for the same price of the dish? The Pork Neck, Purple Kale, Bread Sauce ($18) sitting on the side of the plate sort of summed up the share dining experience — smallish yet flavoursome, although the pork was very salty this time around. The 2010 Earth's End Sauvignon Blanc ($35) from Marlborough was nicely quaffable as expected and both the Gin and Fever Tree Tonic Water with Lime ($10) and Lemon Lime & Bitters ($3.50) came with huge single piece ice cubes.

PROS: Quality ingredients, Interesting flavours, Nice decor, Friendly staff, Better suited for dining in couples I think
CONS: Smallish dishes, Can get expensive and might not be filling, Some dishes are harder to share than others making it fiddly, Some dishes were quite salty
MUST TRY: Everything at least once if you have the money


School Prawns Spiced Tea Butter, Croutons ($6)

Octopus, Hops, Chilli, Orange ($8)

Fried Chicken Wings, Coleslaw Milk, Hot Sauce ($10 for 4 pieces)

Sriracha Chilli Sauce to go with the chicken wings

Egg, Seasonal Mushrooms, Almonds ($15)

Lamb Belly, Cumin, Eggplant, Pearl Onions ($16)

Wagyu, Herb Dressing, Roast Gem Lettuce ($24)

Tater Tots, Duke Gravy, Edamame ($15)

Tomato, Strawberry, Burrata, Shiso ($18)

Baby and watermelon radish, cooked in dashi stock and beurre monté. Served with oven warmed buns ($18)

Pork Neck, Purple Kale, Bread Sauce ($18) — Big plate, little serving :-(

Champagne Cocktail: Cognac, Angostura Bitters soaked Sugar cube and Bubbles ($14)

Duke Cocktail: Duo of Orange, Maraschino Liqueur and Bubbles, finished with a Lemon twist ($15)

2010 Earth's End Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ ($35/bottle)

Gin and Fever Tree Tonic Water with Lime ($10), Lemon Lime & Bitters ($3.50) — check out the size of those single ice cubes

Dining area

Bar area

Balcony with a street view — only 2 tables if you're lucky

Table napkin and the best use of a tea cup as candle holder I've ever seen — good for directly light onto your food for photographing I soon learnt.

Private dining room of 10 seats — very nice

Stairwell bottle chandelier — very cool and quirky

Mr Boar Head — someone has a sense of quirky humor. I wonder what's the story behind this one?

Waiting area in the toilets

Aesop hand soap in the toilets — so Darlinghurst/Surry Hills

View Larger Map
Duke Bistro on Urbanspoon


Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Interior is indeed quirky...! And the egg dish really does look like a biology presentation :)

I keep having to remind myself that the new casual, share thing is not quite like Asian (esp. Chinese) in their much more generous proportions. A mouthful each!

Sara @ Belly Rumbles said...

I love the look and feel of the place. All the dishes look quite interesting, but I do see what you mean by some are a little difficult to share.

Dolly said...

Egg, Seasonal Mushrooms, Almonds

omg i want to try this!!

joey@forkingaroundsydney said...

I love quirky unusual decor; looks like everyone who eats here orders the chicken wings! LOL

john@heneedsfood said...

What a great spread, especially the mushrooms and egg. Another one for the wishlist!

susan said...

looks really good. I love aesop hand stuff in bathrooms. They have them in innocent bystander in the yarra valley. I loved washing my hands!

Simon Leong said...

hi tina, the sharing concept is certainly going around town this season but the portions are not particularly generous like chinese or even italian with their massive platters they sometimes do for large groups.

hi sara, i think dining for couples might be the go so you don't mind sharing cutlery too etc

hi dolly, hope you get to check it out. would love to know what you think.

hi joey, i reckon we all love our crispy fried chicken no matter what the place is hehe :-)

hi john, looking forward to hearing what you think once you try it.

hi susan, they must be getting great deals on aesop because it's not cheap.

Miss Feathers said...

The Burrata looks amazing. And the chandelier is also quite interesting! I'll add this one to my list to try out. Looks great. I'll make sure that I have an empty stomach when I try it out.

Simon Leong said...

hi miss feather, make sure you're cashed up and hope you enjoy the food :-)

Madam Wu said...

That burrata and the egg look so appealing! Who would have thought that they'd be dying to try a lump of cheese and to order an egg for dinner? A 'must have' for me!

Simon Food Favourites Map

View Simon Food Favourites in a larger map Key: BLUE - Location visit and review PINK - Simon Favourites and places offering something special

Small Bars in Sydney map

View Small Bars in Sydney in a larger map